When I was choosing my races for 2012, I really wanted to go back to the Val de Vienne circuit, which is near Poitiers. ProClassic got kinda banned due to a cock up with a race organiser, so I haven't had the opportunity to return to this great circuit since 2008.
So even though this was "late in the year", I thought I would take the risk with the weather and enter the weekend with the RD350 (no class for the RG500).
Looking at the weather forecast for the weekend, it looked like I made the wrong decision! We arrived at the circuit on Friday around 14:00, and picked up the rain. As it didn't look like it was stopping we setup the tent, and everything and settled in to a rainy afternoon, and evening, in fact the rain didn't then stop for more than a couple of minutes until saturday night!
I was planning to get out Friday afternoon, but I just couldn't bring myself to go out in the pissing rain! So first time on the circuit was Saturday morning for qualification. The last time I was here with the 350, I was lapping at around 2:14, in the rain, I wobbled round in 2:58, I laughed when I saw that, but believe it or not this put me on the 7th line in the middle of the grid.
Continuing with the rain theme, Race 1, the track was completely soaked with sitting water in many areas. I had put some anti fog stuff on my visor, and I think this was one of my biggest technical advantages - I could see! I got a good start and while everyone was taking it real slow, I made some good progress, in the first few bends, overtaking a number of guys. I must have been about 16th, where I stayed until I got caught near the end by a group of 3 guys, which was a shame as I would have had a better finish. They had warned us about a couple of areas being slippy, and indeed, there were a couple of bends that made the rear wheel seem to float, and slide, which (until you knew it) would slow you up for the next few bends. The first part of the track gave good grip, and then after the bend called "Le Buisson" through "les S du sanglier" and then once again through the bend after "trop tard" and then in the "La ferme" it was slippy slidy all the way. Anyway, I didn't see it but apparently there was a lot of confusion with the chequered flag, some of the guys in front of me, saw the flag, and slowed down, and even left the track, before finishing the last lap, I didn't so I made up a few places in the last lap!, and eventually finished in 16th position, with a best lap of 2:43.
The rain continued into Saturday evening, but stopped during the night, which was disturbed by our neighbours deciding to get pissed and party until 2:00 am when I had to get out of the van, and shout at them, I was, after all, on track at 8:30 am, I really don't understand wankers that setup one metre from the van, and then think we won't hear them, or perhaps they just don't care - a total lack of respect.
Anyway, set the alarm for 7:30 am, and when I got up it was still dark! The rain however had stopped, but everywhere was still totally soaked.
Race 2, I didn't wear my waterproof trousers, in case I needed to get my knee down (joke.... ha ha ha). The track was soaked but not much standing water. Daylight started kicking in around 7:45, and the first few laps were very dull, but to be honest this didn't really affect speed. Again I got a good start, (the 350 is so easy!), I had reduced my main jets during Saturday evening and replaced the chain, went down from 390's to 380's mainly because the bike wasn't revving out, and the plugs were pretty dark. The theory goes that even though the temperature was low, around 15-16 degrees, when there is water in the air, this displaces the oxygen in the air, and this makes the bike run rich, the trick is to understand at what point the humidity affects the jetting. In actual fact the change in jetting made little difference to the engine running, however the bike did run a little hotter in the second race.
There were a lot more fallers in the second race, I think mainly due to the inflated confidence you get when you can actually see the track instead of just puddles. I managed to keep it up, and fought it out with a ducati and another 350, a couple of laps from the end I managed to get past them (both at the same time!), and they didn't get me back, so I finished a creditable 14th position, and a best time of 2:38!
We packed up the van, and were on the road at 10:00 am, apparently it had been nice weather all weekend at home.... grrrr..... A bit dissapointing as the last outing of the year, but hey, looking at the positives, I learnt more about riding in the rain!
Just for reference, I ran 15/39 gearing, but have no real idea if this is right, given the conditions.